7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 149)

October 28, 2011 | 49 comments

— 1 —

I got this crazy idea at Mass the other day. I was praying about how to get the time to finish this book without having everything else totally fall apart, and the idea of making a “6 for 6” commitment came to mind: I should commit to getting up at 6 AM, six days a week, for six months, assuming that I’ve had at least six hours of sleep the night before (e.g. I’d sleep later if I’d been up with the baby). This is a huge commitment for me since I’m the consummate night owl (remember back when I asked morning people if they really existed?), and with homeschooling I don’t normally need to get up anywhere near that early. Anyway, I did it every day this week, and the results were great. Book progress aside, I’ve felt much more on top of things when I have some time to prepare before the day starts.

— 2 —

We’re doing a New York/Connecticut trip in a few weeks! My husband’s college fraternity is having a big reunion during the weekend of the Harvard/Yale game, so we’ll be going to New Haven by way of NYC. We had assumed we wouldn’t go, but at the last minute we felt like it would be a good thing to do.

Events like this always remind me of how different our backgrounds are. He was voted Most Likely to Succeed in his high school class and went on to be a frat boy at Yale. I did not win any awards in high school, though I would have had Worst Attitude or Most Goth in the bag if the yearbook committee had offered those. As an introvert nerd with a nose ring and a penchant for black lipstick, I went ahead and skipped rush week when I got to Texas A&M. So when I go to these things with my husband, I always feel like I’m getting a glimpse into a different universe.

— 3 —

I wish everyone would write a memoir. The genre is much-maligned because it’s associated with self importance, but I really think that everyone has at least one great story to tell. After all the research I’ve done, I’ve come to believe that excellent writing can turn even the most humble real-life tale into a compelling read; whereas the most thrilling events in the world can be made boring with bad writing and lazy storytelling. If you’ve ever thought of writing a memoir, I encourage you to do it! Read Story Engineering so you get a feel for the movements of a powerful story, then think back through your life to find a time period that has at least some of those elements. You might be amazed at just what a great tale you have to tell.

— 4 —

I finally found an activity that the kids and I can all get into! For a while there I was beginning to despair that I was a hopeless case when it came to entertaining young children, but I think I may have found something here. My son got a digital voice recorder for his seventh birthday, and I’ve been showing him and the other kids how to make radio shows, complete with sound effects. For a tale that began on a dark and stormy night, we crumpled tinfoil for rain and shook a piece of poster board for rolling thunder — it was amazing how real it sounded when we played it back! I’ve loved trying to find other creative ways to make sound effects, as well as hearing the little stories they come up with. And there’s no cleanup! I think I may have found the perfect activity for our family.

Anyone have other ideas for homemade sound effects?

— 5 —

Some folks asked what kind of recipes I cook when I’m in Bare Minimum Mode. Here’s one that I got from Veronica Mitchell a few years ago when I was asking about quick and easy meals. It’s so easy that I can make it on even the most hectic days, but so delicious that we have it even for special occasions:

Simple Oven-Roasted Chicken Breasts:

  • Take frozen chicken breasts and place them on a greased baking dish
  • Add whatever roasting veggies you like (I use onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers)
  • Drizzle with olive oil, add whatever spices you like, and bake uncovered at 425° F (218° C) for 30 – 40 minutes

What I love about this is that you can use frozen chicken breasts, so it makes a great last-minute meal. We always have an onion or two lying around, so many nights I’ve thrown together a delicious roasted chicken and onion dish with hardly any effort on a moment’s notice. Thanks, Veronica!

— 6 —

I’ve mentioned before that I love makeup. The other day I did a “before and after” makeup video to show a friend, and I thought I’d make it into a little Youtube movie to show here.

I should also note that (1) I’d flat-ironed my hair in the “after” shot too, and (2) I was going to an evening event — I would do much less for, say, picking the kids up from Mother’s Day Out. If you’re looking for a makeup inspiration book, I highly recommend Making Faces.

— 7 —

I was going to write something else here, but I’m watching the World Series as I type this. I used to love baseball when I was a kid. A close family friend was (and maybe still is?) the eye doctor for the Texas Rangers, so we often got to go to games and sit right behind home plate. Texas Rangers baseball is woven all through my memories of childhood. I haven’t been that into baseball in adulthood, but stumbling across this game has reminded me why I once loved the sport. I think I’ll sign off now and go enjoy the rest of this game…

Have a great weekend!



  1. Ed@CatholicDRE

    6 am, 6 days a week, 6 months? …666… Doesn’t seem like God’s suggestion to me. Funny, I’ve often thought that 6 am was evil. Maybe that’s why I hate it so much? 🙂

    • Dorian Speed

      Oh, my gosh, Ed, that is too funny. I agree that rising early is spiritually challenging, to say the least. But I prefer to think that Jennifer has capitalized on Herman Cain’s momentum from the 9-9-9 plan and tailored it to suit her own needs.

  2. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    Good luck with your early morning commitment. I started going to Mass on Saturday mornings as well as Sunday because I realized that, without an appointment, I’d sleep til 11.

    • Dorian Speed

      I love starting out my weekend with Saturday morning Mass, and I do it for the same reason – because I’ll sleep wayyy too late otherwise. I had a perfect Saturday morning a few weekends ago – Mass, morning of reflection at our parish, trip to the bookstore, coffee, trip to the library.

      You know you are seriously, seriously nerdy if you prefer trying to understand Kierkegaard in a study carrel to watching football.

      • Jessica

        That sounds like my dream Saturday. Whenever I go to a bookstore, I get ideas for books to check out at the library. Free reading is good reading!

    • JC

      My wife and I do the Saturday morning Mass. Unfortunately, it’s about the only kind of Mass that we get to go to together, since she sings in our choir and I don’t. It’s a nice routine to have, especially sine our Church has confession afterwards.

  3. Leila

    Tall, goth, nose ring, black lipstick — my gosh, girlfriend, you would have intimidated the heck out of me in high school! I love it!

  4. deltaflute

    Sound affects: You’d be amazed at the sound that veggies make when squished, trashed, thumped, etc. That’s what the pros use. If you want to make fog horn sounds, blow across a two liter soda bottle (my son loves that). Clapping two blocks of wood together can sound like horses hooves or just clop a good hard sole shoe over wood and you have running/walking. You can make a variety of silly sounds (good for variety shows and jokes) from kitchen utensils and pots/pans.

    The easiest way to go about it is have the kids hit various sturdy objects to see what they sound like. You can use this as a physics/sound experiment for homeschooling and then use it for your tape recording of literature stuff.

  5. Erin

    I find no 2 fascinating!! wow, such opposites end up together, you could indeed be no 3 with that alone, before we even open the chapter on your Conversion.

  6. Laura O in AK

    I definitely agree that everyone has a great story to tell. They just need the venue to share! Maybe that’s an underlying reason for the popularity of blogging. So many of us need an avenue to share. A blog is far less intimidating than a book.

  7. Charlotte (Matilda)

    Nursing a baby here and thought I’d add some sound effects I learned from a high school production of Our Town… cellophane slowly crinkled sounds like bacon frying, a straw snapped just right can sound like a raw green bean being snapped, and coconut halves for horse hooves. Here is a list I found online. (Warning…didn’t preview it, just glanced.):

  8. Ciska @ This Journey

    I love the radio shows idea! It’s creative, simple and sounds like lots of fun.
    Something went wrong when I first filled out the linky. Could you remove it from the list? Thanks!

  9. Michael

    I agree with you about writing memoirs. And they are often about remembering OTHER people too. It’s not always about self-importance if we are writing about the people who were/are important to us.

  10. Kimberly

    Just yesterday I was thinking about writing a memoir but have no idea where I’d start. I’ll have to take a look at that link and maybe write some thoughts down.

    The radio show idea is really great. Love everyone’s suggestions for sound effects.

    Love the Simple Oven-Roasted Chicken Breasts recipe. May have to try that some time. Sounds wonderful!

  11. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    If you end up with time to spare in NY, or want an excuse to vacate yourself from other social events, I can help you…

  12. robbie

    Re memoir: I’ve recently decided this is one of my favorite genres. The last book I read was Radical Son by David Horowitz. It’s the story of a radical Berkeley communist who ends up a ultra-staunch conservative. It’s actually painful to read certain parts because of the unflinching honesty. I don’t know if I could admit to some of the things this guy admits to, politically speaking. Mr. Horowitz is an excellent writer who gives an eye-opening look into “the dark side”. You might really enjoy it…when you have more time.

    You are an AGGIE!?!?! *love* Btw, did you ever share the story of how you and your husband met?

    • Jen G

      Radical Son is a great (and fascinating) read. It’s sitting right on my bookshelf at home.

  13. Kathleen Basi

    Good for you for exploring the other end of the chronological spectrum! 🙂 I feel like I’m just up all the time…especially in pregnancy like this, I don’t feel like I ever get 6 hours of sleep. This week while my husband’s off work, I’ve sacrificed some of my a.m. writing time to try to fill in the sleep gap a bit on the days we don’t have to get the oldest pushed out the door to school. Which was, um, I guess just today. :/ I slept till 6:30.

  14. Terri

    So how did you enjoy the game? Sorry—couldn’t resist, being the Cardinal fan that I am

  15. Jamie @ A Rough Diamond

    I’ve been writing memoir-genre material since college, when I first fell in love with that style of writing. Real people and real stories are much more interesting than fiction to me! And realy people could potentially have more than one memoir up their sleeve!

  16. Roselady

    I love your glamour shot at the end. Really, really cute. And, I love the fact that you did it in 30 seconds. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Allie

    More importantly, did you stay up for all of the game? I was dragging near the end, but incredibly excited too. Pulling for a Rangers win tonight!

  18. Jennifer

    Was just contemplating dinner. . . bummed that I have no chicken, frozen or otherwise, at the moment. . .

  19. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    So, opposites attract, huh? Too, too funny!

    And I loooooove the video!

  20. Sarah B.

    I’m with you on #2. My hubby also was high school valedictorian and went on to Yale. I was an art weirdo and went to a small, Catholic college. Though I grew up on the east coast (Scranton, PA), I’ve never been to New Haven. We’ll go for the harvard/yale game someday, though we are both much bigger Notre Dame fans (that’s where he went to law school).

  21. Stacy @ Accepting Abundance

    You look beautiful with and without makeup, but it does make you feel so much prettier. Safe travels on your trip east!

  22. Laura

    The key to getting up early and accomplishing things is making sure that your kids sleep late. We now all get up early so that quiet time in the late evening is still enticing, which of course, then makes it hard to get up early and thus the vicious cycle begins again. Good luck with that venture!
    God Bless.

  23. Steph @ Moving to MD

    This was an awesome quick takes Jen. Loved it all. 🙂

    When we were at the Exploratorium in San Fran this summer I spent some time in the sound effects booth (so fun!). I remember one that was super simple and effective – plastic cups upside down stomped on wood (or table) sounds like horse hooves.

    I am so not a makeup person, but I like to get pretty sometimes, so I will definitely check out your tutorial. Thanks for making that!

  24. Kendra @ The Nerdy Wife

    Thanks for the quick recipe, I’m so excited to make it!

  25. Karianna@Caffeinated Catholic Mama

    I would love to be able to get up alone in the morning. I am a morning person, but so are my girls, so we start the day between 6-630a EVERY MORNING. I’v been contemplating getting up at 530a just to have some quiet time before we start the day running. The problem, however, is that my DDs tend to migrate to our bed during the night and if I get up… they get up.

    Love the makeup video. I, too, am a makeup fan, thanks to my BFF Suzanne, who never leaves the house without it. OK she did when she was having #3, but still. It’s amazing how a few minutes can change your outlook. (Pun intended.)

    Have a great one!!

  26. Kara

    I would love to write a memoir, but it’s so intimidating and since my brain hardly functions now that I have 4 kids, I don’t see myself writing it any time soon. I do have quite a lot of stories though. I just finished writing up my conversion and I still am too chicken to post it.

    Oh man, I was a goth in high school too, lol. My husband was a band geek, and we met on a video game. He always teases me about some of the clothes that are still floating around from those days and how “creepy” I was.

  27. Smoochagator

    I love memoirs! And I think your assessment of the genre is spot-on: everyone has at least one good story to tell, and good writing makes all the difference. I think that social connections and relationships are all about stories – we get to know each other, and care about each other, by listening to and telling stories. We find things we have in common, we learn from and are inspired by each other, we get the affirmation we need. And yet, as you said, we make fun of people who want to publish their humble tales, as if this makes them any more self-important than the rest of us. Silly!

  28. Maria Johnson

    I tried my hand at a memoir…sort of. I had fun writing it, and the people who connected with the stories I told liked them because they had similar experiences. The idea of a bigger story to tell is compelling…and a little daunting. Maybe I’ll get around to it again. Like you, I think everyone has a story to tell. I see it in my students who have a real burning desire to tell it but don’t think they have a voice. Sometimes, I think that getting past the grading, past the state standards and into a place where I can tell them that they DO have a voice is my real job, my true calling.

  29. nicole

    Jen–I don’t know if anyone has already commented on this, so sorry if I am repetitive. Baseball superstition demands that I say you can’t watch the game tonight! If you hadn’t watched any of the other ones and then you watched last night and my Rangers fell apart then clearly you jinxed them! Please don’t watch!

    Okay, I’m just kidding. I couldn’t resist though, because I do love baseball and the Rangers and the way baseball fans are crazy superstitious.

  30. Dwija {House Unseen}

    Aw, I was nose-ring havin’ grunge girl back in high school. Somehow my husband agreed to marry me anyway. Sweet!

    I’ve been writing a little memoir piece every Wednesday on my blog- I guess I feel like a book would have to have a nice moral to tie it up in a bow and I don’t know what mine would be yet. Maybe “Hey, if I turned out okay, YOUR kids are gonna be *fine*!”

  31. Delores

    Just to say thanks, and perfect timing. I have to start dinner very soon, and the pack of frozen chicken breasts is on the counter. Chicken, onions, potatoes, spices. I can do this!

  32. Ruth

    I’m a little jealous of the makeup juju that you have going there….I’m not very good at putting on makeup, but then again, I’m also allergic to every makeup I’ve ever tried (and yes, that includes the bare minerals and hypoallergenic kinds). I still wear it on occasion, but only for a couple of hours at a time, since longer than that makes me want to rip my face off. Because of this, I’ve never learned to put it on correctly, so I stick to the absolute basics when I do wear makeup: blush, mascara, lipstick, and powder. 🙂

  33. Lori Miller

    Go Rangers!!!!

  34. Catherine

    I’m so impressed that anyone can function on 6 hours sleep. I need 8 or 9 MINIMUM. That’s just to keep me from getting sick. I can make it through one day with less than that (I’ll feel dizzy and nauseous all day, but I’ll make it) but then I have to make up the sleep the next night or I’ll have full blown strep throat or the flu.

    Right now I’m 9 months pregnant so I need about 10 or 11 hours each day. Yep, I sleep almost the same hours as my two year old.

    I’m totally fascinated by people who can just sleep less to get stuff done (like my husband)
    Sucks to be me 🙁

  35. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    I love the idea of letting the kids record stories and come up with sounds. That does sound like a great imagination, fun with super-simple clean-up activity!

    My sister loves make-up as well, and she bought that book years ago and lvoed it. I’m more of a bare minimum when it comes to make-up these days. Vaseline on my lips is about as dressed up as I get most of the time. Not since high school have I left every single morning with at least powder on my face. Ah well. Your make-up looks great and so does your hair!

    I love the recipe using frozen chicken. I’ve already mentioned it to our best friend/brother in Christ who has had us over to his place twice and the chicken wasn’t defrosting quite as he planned. One time, he ran out and bought a cooked chicken since we’d been waiting so long to eat. 🙂

    Hope the trip goes well and that you have a blessed weekend.

  36. Catherine

    Jennifer – you should totally enter a make-up video for one of the Bobbie Brown “Pretty Powerful” contests. You look wonderful and have a great on-camera presence!

  37. Jaime

    I’m so delighted you’re coming to ny state, Connecticut! Hope you have safe travels and enjoy your stay! If need any suggestions, let me know! God bless!

  38. Kate

    My husband spend half a year interning with a guy who basically makes homemade sound effects for a living – he wrote The Sound Effects Bible (that’s literally what it’s called), and you could probably find a lot of great ideas in there if you wanted to get it from the library or something. We had a fun time – stabbing pumpkins and then tearing them up for the squishy sounds, shaking up bottles of pop and then throwing them on the ground to record the explosion – and who knew wet dog food makes such a satisfying splat? Also, ‘walking’ with your hands in shoes in a box of (clean!) cat litter is a great way to get good outdoor walking sounds. Have fun!

  39. Johanna

    While you are in New Haven, I highly recommend visiting St. Mary’s. It’s the church where the Knights of Columbus were founded. It’s inspiring to learn about the passion Father McGivney had for young people in the church and to think about how mch his movement has grown.

  40. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Sorry about your Rangers. I was pulling for them. They beat us last series, so it always feels better to say you’ve been beaten by the champs! Gah! I just spilled ketchup on my keyboard…


  41. Michelle Nelli

    We play a really fun game with the voice recorder called guess the sound. You can record really easy ones like the toilet flushing (makes them giggle…) and the doorbell then move to the more difficult like crumpling foil. It is lots of fun.

  42. Mary @ Parenthood

    When I was in high school, my then-boyfriend (now hubby) were fascinated by sound effects. My favourite (don’t ask me why!): reproducing the sound of someone being sick. Start with a burp and then pour a bucket of water into the sink.

    Really gross, and really effective!

    Of course, I can’t imagine the story that would need that effect but just in case I felt compelled to share. Growing up we did a lot of video plays, which I remember fondly. Please keep your masterpieces! I would pay quite a lot of money to be able to rewatch some of ours.

  43. Joy

    I finished writing a memoir a year ago, but I’ve taken off all this time because I felt like I needed to get a perspective about what exactly I wanted to accomplish with it. I feel like the ms in its current form is too much about me, and I want it to be more about what God did for me. So now, I’m just trying to figure out how to do that! For some reason, that’s not as easy as it seems it should be. But, oh, I LOVE a good memoir! Thanks so much for the tip for that book! I haven’t heard of it before — and I thought I’d read them all. 🙂

  44. Amanda

    Hey, where’s the nose ring in your profile pic? I wish I’d gotten mine in high school but I was too busy being an introvert anime dork. I waited until I was a married, practicing Catholic with a toddler to get mine and I love my little nose stud, I think my conservative homeschooling Christian friends assume it’s a remnant from some former heathen days but it’s really not 🙂 I don’t tell them about my husband’s tattoo that commemorates his graduation from Seminary, lol!

    My husband read some good advice from the author of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years on getting up and writing early in the morning. Is that maybe where you got the idea? He keeps meaning to put it into practice but somehow it never sticks. Hopefully you’re more motivated than him though!

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